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Colombian President’s Son Is Arrested in Money Laundering Inquiry

The son of Gustavo Petro, the president of Colombia, was arrested on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment, the attorney general’s office announced early Saturday morning.

Nicolás Petro was arrested along with his ex-wife, Daysuris Vásquez, who was also charged with money laundering, as well as personal data violations. They were taken into custody and the attorney general is seeking to have them held in detention on those charges, according to the statement by his office.

The attorney general’s office announced in March that it was investigating the younger Mr. Petro, a politician in the northern department of Atlántico, for allegedly receiving money from drug traffickers in exchange for including them in his father’s peace negotiations. The president has been negotiating with various illegal armed groups as he seeks to end the country’s 60-year internal conflict, which has killed around 450,000 people.

The younger Mr. Petro denied any wrongdoing when the attorney general first announced the investigation, calling accusations against him “harmful and unsubstantiated.” Both the president and his son said at the time that they welcomed the investigation “to clarify and protect my honor and good name.”

In January the attorney general’s office also opened an investigation into the president’s brother, Juan Fernando Petro, over similar allegations.

President Petro wrote on Saturday morning on Twitter that he was “hurt” by the prospect of his son going to jail. But he assured that the prosecution of the case would proceed freely without government pressure or intervention.

“I wish my son luck and strength,” he wrote. “May these events forge his character and may he reflect on his own mistakes.”

President Petro’s peace efforts have had mixed success. The government and the National Liberation Army, the country’s largest rebel group, agreed to a 180-day cease-fire last month, while talks with the Clan del Golfo, Colombia’s main drug trafficking group, have sputtered due to continuing violence.

One contentious proposal by President Petro would give reduced sentences to members of armed groups that dismantle criminal networks, acknowledge their crimes, do victim restoration work, and turn over weapons and information about their activities.

Ms. Vásquez in March accused her ex-husband of pocketing campaign donations to his father from people linked to drug trafficking groups. She made the allegations in an interview with the Colombian magazine Semana.

The arrests represent another blow to the country’s first leftist president, who has struggled to push many of his reforms through a divided Congress.

His first year in office has been plagued by numerous challenges, including cabinet shake-ups and allegations of illegal campaign financing by his former ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti.

The latest scandal is likely to make it even more difficult for President Petro to enact reforms and to weaken his party in upcoming local elections by giving leverage to his opponents, said Sergio Guzmán, a Colombian political analyst.

“This hurts the president’s legitimacy, his fight against narco-trafficking influence in politics, his fight against traditional political elites,” Mr. Guzmán said.



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Mohammad SHiblu

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